Charlotte’s temporary boot on the neck of the Hidden Valley Kings appears to be working, but there is no guarantee it will be kept in place past August.
That’s when the city’s – and North Carolina’s – first temporary injunction against a reputed street gang is scheduled to expire.
For the past 11 months, Kings members have been banned from physically gathering in just about every way imaginable – from “driving, standing, sitting, walking or appearing together in public view” to possessing firearms or drugs, or being in the presence of anyone who does. Known gang members who violate the order can be charged with a misdemeanor.
The yearlong order, which was signed by Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Richard Boner, became law on Aug. 26. That means it expires in about four weeks.
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City and police attorneys say it’s not as simple as going back before a judge to argue that the order be made permanent. That’s because the state’s so-called “gang nuisance” law, which made the order possible, limits such crackdowns to 12 months in length. Assistant City Attorney Rusty Perlungher said Monday that it’s unclear if the city can get more time.
What is clear is that the injunction appears to be working. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, violent crime has fallen in Hidden Valley by 21 percent over the past 12 months. Rapes are down 40 percent; robberies of businesses, 67 percent; aggravated assaults, 24 percent; and gunshot cases, 43 percent.
“It has had a big impact on that community,” Edward Marsh, who works on economic development and community projects in the neighborhood, told WFAE Radio, an Observer news partner. “ We all know what Hidden Valley used to be like. That community has really banded together and has done things positive. And that injunction was just icing on the cake.”
Hidden Valley is a predominantly African-American neighborhood northwest of uptown long synonymous with urban crime. The city says the gang moved in about 25 years ago, setting up a drug trade and controlling the community with intimidation and violence.
In its request for the temporary injunction, the city listed about two dozens names of men who they say run the gang. Several appeared at the hearing that preceded Boner’s order.
Charlotte attorney Bree Laughrun, who represents one of the alleged gang members, told Boner that police had not produced sufficient evidence to prove the neighborhood had a gang problem.
The families of several of the city’s targets said their loved ones had been branded as violent criminals without having the chance to defend themselves in court. Several of those named said they were being singled out because they are from Hidden Valley.
Laughrun’s client, Kevin “Kevo” Funderburk, appealed Boner’s order to the N.C. Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled last month that weighing in at this stage was premature, particularly since Funderburk “has not argued any substantial right that will be irrevocably lost” if the court doesn’t get involved.
The deadline to appeal the ruling ends this week. Laughrun did not return phone calls.